Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist back again and boy am I excited for the upcoming Dallas Regional Championship. Last time I spoke with y’all was right before the Memphis Regional Championship which ended up being the biggest Regional Championship ever with 949 Masters! The Dallas Regional Championship is looking to be even bigger than that as the Pre-Registration numbers recently broke 1,000 Masters! I’m incredibly excited to be attending what will seemingly be known as the biggest Regional Championship to date, though if current trends persist, it won’t hold that title for very long.
Since we last spoke I’ve been able to attend 2 League Cups in the SoCal area, with one being Standard and the other Expanded. I played Gardevoir at the Standard cup which lead me to a T4 finish after losing to Buzzwole/Lycanroc. I played Seismitoad/Zoroark-GX at the Expanded League Cup which lead me to a T8 finish after losing to the mirror match. The tournaments looked like this:
Glendale, CA Standard League Cup – Gardevoir (Brokenvoir)
R1 Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX GRI W
R2 Ninetales-GX/Zoroark-GX W
R3 Lycanroc-GX GRI/Zoroark-GX W
R4 Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX GRI L
R5 Gardevoir-GX T
T4 Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX GRI LL
Bakersfield, CA Expanded League Cup – Seismitoad/Zoroark
R1 Metagross-GX W
R2 Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX GRI W
R3 Tapu Koko SM30/Seismitoad-EX/Dusknoir BCR W
R4 Seismitoad-EX/Zoroark-GX W
T8 Seismitoad/Zoroark LL
I’m not sure what’s been happening to me lately, but I have been unable to win a game of top cut since moving to SoCal, despite making cut at 4/5 of the cups I’ve attended. I always seem to breeze through Swiss, but then get run over in Top Cut. I want to chalk it up to mostly bad luck, but I don’t think it would be entirely fair to do so. Both of these series played out similarly, with me opening horrendously G1 and losing very quickly, followed by much closer G2s where I made a small misplay that ultimately lead to me being Knocked Out. I could be upset about losing an entire game in both series due to variance, but ultimately focusing on the misplays and ensuring they do not happen again is going to be the most productive avenue for improvement.
Other than the League Cup with Gardevoir, and a bit of practice leading up to it, I have been playing exclusively Expanded for quite some time, as San Jose Regionals was my last big event. I am mostly very content with how the Expanded metagame has played out, and am pretty happy with the format. Night March is clearly the current BDIF, while Zoroark-GX continues to be the most heavily played card in both Standard and Expanded. I’m not entirely certain how I feel about how polarizing Zoroark-GX (and to an extent Puzzle of Time) has been, but I do think the card has lead to a much healthier format overall—especially in Standard. The consistency and control that Zoroark-GX has brought to decks has been absolutely incredible to see, and when that level of consistency is available to both players, then it’s safe to assume that the more thoughtful/skilled player will end up winning more often than not.
Lay of The Land: Expected Dallas Metagame
Looking forward to the Dallas Regional Championship, I think the metagame is going to end up looking something like this:
- Zoroark-GX Variants (40-60%)
- Seismitoad/Zoroark (15-20%)
- Golisopod/Zoroark (10-15%)
- Zoroark/Alolan Muk(10-15%)
- Zoroark/Lycanroc (5-10%)
- Night March (10-15%)
- Trevenant BREAK (5-10%)
- Garbodor Variants (5-10%)
- Fighting Stuff ie Donphan/Buzzwole (5-10%)
- Gardevoir (1-5%)
- Beach Decks (i.e. Wailord/Primal Groudon) (1-5%)
- Turbo Turtles (1-5%)
- Dark Decks (1-5%)
- Other (1-5%)
As you can see, I still expect to see the decks that utilize Zoroark-GX the most to be immensely popular. I don’t think this metagame spread prediction is particularly out there, but should give people an idea of what to expect going into Dallas.
Assuming my metagame prediction is even somewhat close to what will end up being the truth, my Top 2 plays for the event are currently Seismitoad/Zoroark and Wailord. I have definitely been playing these decks the most in recent weeks and plan to continue to grind them until showtime. I don’t really see myself switching off to anything else unless something super exciting pops up and steals my attention because I think both decks are incredibly well positioned right now.
Pokémon – 15
2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI
Trainers – 41
Energy – 4
This is the list that I played at my League Cup. I wasn’t entirely certain what I was going to play the night before the tournament, and ended up settling on this deck after looking at Jimmy’s article. His list looked way too clean and consistent, so I spiced it up a bit to see what kind of weird things I could get away with, played a handful of games on PTCGO, and brought it to the cup the next day. I definitely think some of decisions were sub-optimal, and probably caused me to lose my T8 match, but overall I was glad I experimented a bit with the list.
League Cup List Decision Explanations
1-1 Zoroark BKT – This is one inclusion that I loved more and more as the day went on. I believe the 4th Zorua is absolutely correct and something that should be in the deck. Without Brigette, setting up multiple Zoroark can be quite a pain, so I really liked maximizing the odds of seeing Zorua throughout the game to ensure my draw power gets online ASAP. The mobility the card offers is unparalleled and really helps with switching attackers at crucial moments. It also happens to be the only non-EX/GX attacker in the deck while also having the largest damage ceiling.
Exeggcute – I’ve really liked this card in every expanded Zoroark deck I’ve played with so far. While you do often like to discard useless cards with Trade, there are definitely times where your entire hand is good and you don’t want to discard anything! The guarantee of being able to use all of your Trades every single turn is way too nice for me to give up, and is especially useful after late game N.
Sudowoodo – I included this card because it was in every other list that I saw, but I honestly hated it the entire day. My main beef is that it conflicts with Zoroark BKT, but it does help ensure the Zoroark decks cannot pull off anything cheeky with Sky Field and a full bench. Fighting Fury Belt can also help prevent this, which is a good reason to keep it around to some capacity.
Mallow/Plumeria – Mallow seemed like a cool consistency card with Zoroark-GX’s Trade ability, and I really liked the idea of being able to have access to DCE whenever I wanted. Plumeria seemed insane with Exeggcute in the deck, so I knew it was something I had to play, and the combo proved great for resource conservation and disruption all day.
Fighting Fury Belt – Having a bulky toad has always been very strong due to the nature of the deck. You’re slow but also very disruptive so you are very rarely 1HKO-ed, and FFB helps ensure that while also giving you a bit more surviviability. Seismitoad aims to lock the opponent down so the extra damage rarely matters, but not being able to attach it to the Zoroark line is rather annoying.
Rock Guard – This is one of the long-forgotten non-Computer Search ACE SPECs. Attaching it to a Seismitoad-EX and using Quaking Punch not only means that your opponent takes 60 damage every single time they want to attack you, but they also cannot play Field Blower to remove it. When you use Acerola, you get to keep the Rock Guard to re-attach it, and if you happen to lose it you can always use Puzzle of Time to get it back! I thought I was onto something here, but ultimately I think Computer Search is just too good not to play. If we’ve learned anything about the ever-increasing size of Pokémon TCG tournaments and the amount of rounds that have to be won to be successful, it’s that consistency is king.
Field Blower/Special Charge – Field Blower was a nice card to have access to if your opponent ever managed to get a couple of Items down before you start using Quaking Punch, or if they used Pokémon Ranger and were able to get some tools down. Special Charge is good insurance to make sure you never run out of Double Colorless Energy, but unlike the aggressive DCE decks, Seismitoad-EX often has a lot of turns to find more DCE and isn’t nearly as vulnerable to the ever-popular Enhanced Hammer.
4th Zoroark-GX, Zoroark BW – While I am convinced that 4 Zorua is correct, the 4th Zoroark spot could potentially be either of these options instead of Zoroark BKT. I definitely like the 4th Zoroark-GX more than the Zoroark BW for consistency reasons, and finding time to attack with Zoroark BW seems hard, as you rarely want to break the Quaking Punch lock.
3rd Tapu Lele-GX, Shaymin-EX – Either one of these inclusions would be a welcome addition to consistency, but I think you have to cut down on the Zoroark line if you want to find the space for them, which I’m not convinced I want to do. They’re better early game and at helping to ensure you get setup, but I value the full Zoroark count pretty highly.
2nd Exeggcute, 2nd Plumeria, Battle Compressor – All of these cards could be introduced into the deck hand-in-hand, and the little bit I’ve played with them is really fun! Getting both eggs into the discard without Battle Compressor is kind of hard and annoying, but even just having one makes Plumeria manageable. Being able to re-use Plumeria over and over again with Exeggcute seems way too good, and is definitely something I want to test more.
Pokémon Ranger, Xerosic – Both of these supporters could be reasonably classified as techs for the mirror match. Pokémon Ranger is amazing in the mirror, as removing their Item-lock for the turn allows you to play things like Puzzle of Time, Enhanced Hammer, and Hypnotoxic Laser. The Top 8 of my League Cup had 4 Seismitoad/Zoroark decks, and the eventual winner was the only one of us that played Pokémon Ranger. It can also help vs Special Energy lock concepts like Mismagius, Noivern, and Giratina-EX. Xerosic can target benched special energy or remove a stubborn tool at key moments, giving you a lot of versatility in your removal supporter options.
Team Skull Grunt – This card has a lot of potential to catch an unsuspecting opponent off guard. I noticed during my League Cup that often my opponents would be sitting on energy in their hand to attach only when they were about to use it, but the issue with squeezing this in is justifying the space for it.
Ghetsis/Hex Maniac – Ghetsis is a supporter that Seismitoad-EX has always enjoyed having on the first turn of the game. Since you’re unable to use Quaking Punch when going first, why not just rip all of the Items out of their hand to slow them down until you can? Ghetsis has also been very important against decks with Pokémon Ranger in them, because if you know they have Pokémon Ranger in their hand, you can just take away all of the Items they would want to play anyway! Hex Maniac can be great to prevent your opponent from using abilities like Trade, but Seismitoad decks are often so slow that losing one turn of abilities isn’t a huge deal.
Karen – This is the card to play if you’re really afraid of Night March going into Dallas Regionals. Karen turns a 60-40 matchup into basically a 100-0 (This is the part where all of the dedicated Night March players scoff at once). However, I’ve never actually liked Karen as a card because I hate dedicating a part of my deck to hard counter another one. Playing Fighting Fury Belt helps justify that stance a bit more, as taking a 1HKO on a Seismitoad gets that much harder.
Choice Band – Not playing this card definitely feels incorrect, but I also like Fighting Fury Belt a lot on Seismitoad-EX. I kind of want a split, but ultimately playing all Choice Band improves consistency because we will always have a damage modifying tool that is good on all of our attackers at anytime.
Computer Search – Rock Guard was cute and fun, but going into an up to 15 round tournament + 3 Rounds of Top Cut means you want something that is always good instead of something that is sometimes good. Consistency is essential.
Pokémon – 14
2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI
Trainers – 42
Energy – 4
After finally getting some extensive testing in with the deck, I believe this is the list I would sleeve up for Dallas Regionals if the tournament were tomorrow and I decided to play this deck. After seeing how well Seismitoad/Zoroark was doing at League Cups, I decided that I really wanted to hard tech for the mirror match. The ever-increasing popularity of Golisopod/Zoroark is a bit concerning, but luckily their Golisopod line isn’t particularly thick. This gives you the out to lock them out of the game by targeting Wimpods, trapping a Golisopod active, and/or removing all of their Grass energy.
The deck may still want something for the Sky Field Zoroark decks as well to keep them from taking a 1HKO on you with Sky Field and a full bench. Pokémon Ranger in general is also an issue for the deck, and you should definitely be prepared to play against it going into Dallas. As mentioned earlier, if you know they are sitting on a Pokémon Ranger, then Ghetsis becomes an incredibly useful card for removing potentially-playable Item cards from their hand.
Pokémon – 6
Trainers – 53
Energy – 1
This is a deck I’ve been really into since seeing Drew Kennett’s finish at San Jose Regionals with Wailord, followed closely by Yehoshua Tate’s finish at Memphis Regionals with what was essentially a Standard version of Wailord utilizing Wishiwashi-GX and Hoopa—along with Xurkitree-GX and a single L Energy. I’ve really enjoyed the idea of Lusamine Loop giving you access to infinite resources, which is a huge part of the reason I think this deck is so strong.
I started testing the deck along with Eric Gansman, Olliver Barr, and our own Xander Pero a while back and believe it to be incredibly strong. Knocking Out a Wailord is very hard to do, and even harder when you also have to consider how you’re going to knockout a Hoopa SHL and/or Xurkitree-GX. I’ve always enjoyed the kind of decks that can really punish your opponent for misplays, and Wailord capitalizes on any resource squandering very well. The biggest concern for this deck is, and always has been, Bunnelby PRC. This .10c little bunny has always been very comical to me as a hard counter to the massive Wailord-EX. The sudden rise in Golisopod-GX variants is a little concerning as well, but I think that is much more manageable.
Xurkitree-GX, 1 L Energy – This is the sauce in the deck that I have really come to enjoy. Everything about Xurkitree-GX was built to find a home in a mill deck, especially something like Wailord. Not only is the Ability incredibly powerful itself, but it comes with an easy-to-use GX attack that can be absolutely game breaking for a deck that’s looking to drain your opponent of resources. A mid or late game GX attack stealing a Puzzle of Time and throwing it into the prizes can be absolutely devastating, and has definitely won me a lot of games by itself.
Hoopa SLG – This little guy is actually a rather recent inclusion, and is something I was against playing for quite some time. You want to try and use Xurkitree’s GX attack every single game you force your opponent to take 7 Prizes to win the game. Because of this, I found it very successful to just force them to bull through 3 Wailord-EX alongside the Xurkitree instead of giving them a non-EX/GX out to KO in order to even up the prizes.
However, the deck definitely wants something else alongside the Xurkitree-GX to handle Golisopod-GX, due to the grass weakness on Wailord. If you end up losing the Hoopa and your opponent is able to get back to even Prizes after Xurkitree’s GX attack, you can always use Puzzle of Time to recover it and set them back to odd.
Teammates – This is definitely the weirdest supporter choice in the list as everything else is to be expected or was explained by Xander in his recap with the deck at a League Cup. When I learned that you can play Teammates after a Robo Sub gets Knocked Out, I decided to give the card a try and have absolutely loved it ever since. Being able to search two cards from your deck gives you so much power over what you can do that turn, and can even help you plan for the following turn or two. Because you can play it after a Robo Sub gets Knocked Out you have a lot more opportunities to utilize this powerful effect throughout the game, and I’ve really appreciated the extra consistency.
Field Blower – I wasn’t playing this card at first because the only tool I was ever particularly concerned with Night March’s Choice Band, because it allows them to reach the ever important 250 mark to 1HKO a Wailord. However, removing Golisopod-GX’s Choice Bands has proven to be incredibly important as well, so the card has found its way back into the deck.
Wishiwashi-GX – I’ve been considering trying to find space for this as well due entirely to the non-grass weakness. Having something that can take a full hit from any of Golisopod-GX’s attacks without fear of a Hex Maniac negating the plan is incredibly appealing, and definitely wanted in the matchup. Even in matchups where your opponent’s main attackers are not Grass it’s still not the worst thing in the world to have in play due to its beefy 210 HP—but, it is objectively worse than Wailord-EX.
Bunnelby PRC, Second Lightning – This is an inclusion I considered when I realized how absolutely atrocious the mirror match is and that I wanted to try and have an out to opposing Bunnelby. It is definitely a solid out in the mirror match, but against opposing decks with Bunnelby, it becomes an incredibly frustrating match up—they can take a turn to knockout your Bunnelby, and then go back to doing their thing.
Delinquent – I had this in my first iteration of the list, but I found myself never using it for a couple of reasons. The first major reason is that I never actually wanted to remove my own Tropical Beach from play because I would often like to end my turn refilling my hand to 7 cards. The second: Hugh and Team Rocket’s Handiwork do a much better job of milling the opponent, and are less conditional to utilize at any point in the game. Delinquent is a card I used to love, but it seems to have lost a lot of strength since GRI was printed.
Pokémon Fan Club, 2nd Nest Ball – Either one of these are a viable option if you’re looking to include more search cards in the deck to ensure you get a second basic down ASAP to prevent a donk. However, with Computer Search as the chosen ACE SPEC, I’ve found the 1 Nest Ball to be the perfect amount, as you really only need two Pokémon (or even 1 and a Robo Sub!) in play to begin using AZ and Acerola to their maximum potential.
3rd Plumeria, 2nd Team Rocket’s Handiwork – Beefing up either of these supporter counts is something I really want to do if I can find the space. They’re both just very good cards that are critical to the strategy of Wailord and definitely cards you’re looking to play every single game.
Assault Vest, Fighting Fury Belt – I’ve been very back and forth on the inclusion of these tool cards. The only matchup I find myself really enjoying them in is against Night March, because sticking either one on a Wailord-EX means that there is no way that Wailord is going to be 1HKO-ed unless a Field Blower is involved, which they usually only play one of—meaning they would have to use valuable Puzzles to recover it in order to handle more copies of the tools on more Wailord-EX.
Startling Megaphone – Drew played this instead of Field Blower, but I’m not entirely certain which is better. Having the option to remove Stadiums is really nice, but I’m not sure if that will come up more than missing the removal of more than two tools from your opponent’s side of the field.
Not to sound like a broken record, but I am beyond excited for the Dallas Regional Championship. I’m looking forward to testing more and preparing to play in the largest Regional Championship ever so far. I’m really excited to see what kind of insanity will show up at the event, and I really hope we see some interesting decks take the tournament by storm!
I know I’ve said this before, but I always find this to be a repeatedly important point going into Expanded events:
Expanded is so incredibly tough to prepare for because of the amount of viable decks.
If you define subtle differences among builds like choosing to include Giratina-EX in a Turbo Dark deck or all of the different Zoroark variants as entirely different decks then there are most likely at least 30+ options for viable decks that could be sitting across the table from you. The most important thing to be aware of in Expanded is knowing your deck. Knowing how to pilot your deck, why it is your deck, and why each and every card is in your deck is a huge component of succeeding in such a diverse metagame.
As always, feel free to come up and say hello at any event! I love meeting readers and am usually willing to chat with anyone for a bit. Until next time!
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